FG Issues Health Advisory on Coronavirus, Orders Screening at Airports, Border Posts

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  • WHO holds emergency meeting over disease

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

Federal Government has taken preventive measures to prevent an outbreak of the deadly virus, coronavirus (2019nCoV) in Nigeria, which has been reported in China.

Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) Wednesday convened its emergency committee meeting to determine whether the outbreak should be declared a “Public Health Event of International Concern” (PHEIC) or not.

A public health advisory on the new virus – the novel coronavirus (nCoV), was issued on Wednesday morning by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control after series of consultations to ascertain the nature and impact of the disease.

The first case of a novel (new) coronavirus (2019nCoV) strain was confirmed in China on January 7, 2020. According to preliminary investigations, most patients either visited or worked in the Huanan Seafood wholesale market, Wuhan city.

As at the January 20, 2020, 278 laboratory-confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV infection including six deaths had been reported to WHO globally since the first case was reported on December 31, 2019. Many of the initial cases were thought to have contacted the virus through animal-to-human transmission from the market, but human-to-human transmission had also been established.

According to the NCDC health advisory, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY on Wednesday, the disease control centre said that the Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria had been placed on alert and had heightened screening measures at the points of entry.

It said exit screening measures in China had been enhanced for travellers from Wuhan city at the Points of Entry (PoE) (airports and ground transport stations) since the January 14.

“The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is currently coordinating a multisectoral technical group that is assessing and managing the risk of importation to Nigeria. NCDC is in close communication with the World Health Organization (WHO) who is closely monitoring the situation globally,” it said.

While urging for calm, NCDC advised travelers from Nigeria to Wuhan, China, to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), and animal markets.

It said that travelers from Wuhan to Nigeria, may be asked questions upon arrival by the Port Health Services unit at points of entry about symptoms of illness and travel history, and are advised to report immediately to NCDC, if they feel ill after a trip to Wuhan.

The health advisory said: “Federal Ministry of Health through NCDC and its partners are fully committed to strengthening our preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks. Information will be shared with the public as it becomes available,”.

NCDC advised that in order to reduce the risk of spread of coronavirus, members of the public should adhere to specified tips.

It asked people to always wash their hands regularly with soap under running water and to cover their mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing.

“You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

“Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms,”

NCDC also advised healthcare workers to always observe standard infection prevention and control measures when attending to patients and to take their travel history.

While explaining the symptoms of the new coronavirus 2019nCoV, NCDC said the disease may cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms like cough, cough and breathing difficulties.

“From current evidence, it appears that death is a rare outcome, mostly in patients with underlying illness,” it said.

NCDC said that there is no specific treatment for disease caused by the novel coronavirus yet but that many of the symptoms can be treated.

It said that treatment will be based on the patient’s clinical condition, adding that supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective.

NCDC pledged to keep updating members of public as the situation is evolving.

NCDC said Coronaviruses were zoonotic, meaning they are normally transmitted between animals and people.

According to the agency, novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in humans.

It said some coronaviruses could be transmitted from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient, for example, in a household or health care setting. It added that several known coronaviruses were circulating in animals that had not yet infected humans.